Building Your Bible Vocabulary: “Judge — Condemn?  Examine?  Distinguish?”

     There are a few different Greek verbs that translate into English as the verb “judge”.  Understanding their distinctions helps us understand God’s actual expectations of us.

     (1) One verb “krino” has the sense of separating out to condemn… like from the vegetable harvest separating out the rejects to discard them.  Jesus uses this word in Matthew 7:1-2, “
Do not judge so that you will not be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (NASB)  And so we understand Jesus here is cautioning us to not take it upon ourselves to condemn others, to choose who is going to hell or heaven, because there will be consequences if we do.  “Do not (condemn) so that you will not be (condemned).  For in the way you (condemn), you will be (condemned); and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”  Is this instruction about condemning, in and of itself, a condemning of us… a sentencing us to hell by Jesus?  No, He is warning us ahead of time so we can change to avoid that condemnation.
     This same verb “krino” is translated as “judge” in John 3:17-18.  “
For God did not send the Son into the world to (condemn) the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not (condemned); he who does not believe has been (condemned) already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (NASB)  By telling us this, is Jesus condemning His listeners and us His readers?  No, Jesus is just warning condemned people about their current condition so they can know God is offering a chance to change and be rescued.  He’s also reminding saved people so they remember how to stay rescued.
     Jesus uses “krino” in John 12:46-50.  “
I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.  If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not (condemn) him; for I did not come to (condemn) the world, but to save the world.  He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who (condemns) him; the word I spoke is what will (condemn) him at the last day.  For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.  I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” (NASB)  Again, Jesus is just explaining why He warns people using God’s word… to help them learn how to escape God’s condemnation and to accept His offer of eternal life.
     The Hebrews writer uses “krino” in Hebrews 13:4.  “
Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will (condemn).” (NASB)  Like Jesus, we can use God’s word to encourage people to choose wisely.  As with Jesus, warning people about condemnation is not the same as condemning them.

     (2) Another Greek verb, “anakrino” , is sometimes translated “judge” or “appraise” or “discern” depending up the translation version.  It has the sense of examining, investigating, questioning… we might describe it as sifting through the evidence.  Paul uses this word “anakrino” in 1 Cor. 2:14-15.  “
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually (examined).  But he who is spiritual (examines) all things, yet he himself is (examined) by no one.” (NASB)

     (3) The third Greek verb, “diakrino” , translated “judge” or “decide” or “discern” has the sense of distinguishing and discerning the facts, recognizing and acknowledging the facts… we might describe it as reaching a conclusion or an understanding about a matter.  For example, “we judged the rope had weakened with age as the reason it broke under the sudden strain.”  Jesus uses this word in Matt. 16:3.  “
… Do you know how to (distinguish, discern) the appearance of the sky,… ?”  Paul uses “diakrino” in 1 Cor. 6:5.  “I say this to your shame.  Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to (distinguish, discern) between his brethren?” (NKJV)  The Hebrews writer uses a derivative of this word in Heb. 5:13-14.  “For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.  But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to (distinguish, discern) good and evil.” (NASB)

     ***** Applying the meaning: how shall we judge righteously? (Luke 12:57; John 7:24)*****

     God expects all people, but especially His people, should judge-examine and judge-discern.  Keep in mind 1 John 4:1, “
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (NASB)  We are instructed to not judge-condemn as though choosing and separating out who will receive eternal punishment.  God will do that by comparing to the standard of Jesus’ words.  Warning people about how & why God would condemn them does not make us the one condemning them.
     According to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, people who practice certain lifestyles will NOT be permitted to inherit the kingdom of God… in other words, God names those lifestyles as being condemnable.  If we recognize that someone important to us is living in one of these lifestyles, then we should recognize that God will condemn them if they stay in that situation.  They might ignore or refuse our attempts to persuade change, but they will certainly remain condemned if we do nothing.  Shall we ignore the problem by hoping it goes away and by telling ourselves we simply allow them to work out their own salvation with God?  Imagine what our own situations would be if Jesus had chosen that approach!
     Shall we encourage their mistaken idea that God approves or doesn’t care about their condemning lifestyle?  That would be a deception on our part, wouldn’t it?  Looking through my New Testament concordance I counted at least 12 verses commanding to not allow ourselves to be deceived.  In short, we sin if we allow ourselves to be deceived.  Would it be any less of a sin if we choose allowing our fearful inaction to deceive others?  Certainly we must allow others freedom to choose for themselves if they will refuse God’s guidance towards forgiveness.  But, part of truly allowing freedom to say “no, thank you” is honestly providing an informed option to say “yes, please.”

     Paul tells us in 2 Tim. 4:2, “
Begin to preach the word only if requested!  Convince, exhort as requested.”  That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?  If people don’t request us to offer them solutions from God’s word, then we don’t have to be ready to offer those solutions.  Just like how Jesus handled things, right?
     Actually, that’s not exactly what the Bible says in 2 Tim. 4:2, is it?  “
Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (NKJV)  As the ERV words it, “Tell everyone God’s message.  Be ready at all times to do whatever is needed.  Tell people what they need to do, tell them when they are doing wrong, and encourage them.  Do this with great patience and careful teaching.”  Now that really sounds more like Jesus, doesn’t it?

     God certainly has ambitions and intentions for people to do what’s right in His sight (Matthew 5:6,10; 6:33; 13:43; Ephesians 2:8-10; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).  And yet we have to remember that people sin (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10).  Some fervently repent… openly seeking God and searching His written word for real guidance.  Some coldly refuse… openly ignoring God and living in blind selfishness.  Some cling to a lukewarm attitude… desiring the appearance of a believing faith, but lacking the substance of a working faith.  Which of these examples are we ourselves choosing to set for others to imitate?
     Sometimes the people we care about most are doing wrong things, even terrible things… and they refuse to repent.  Sometimes we are the ones doing the wrong & terrible things refusing to repent.  When that happens we’re tempted to look for ways to excuse them or ourselves as being ok… to relabel the wrong being practiced as something right, approved, and pleasing to God.  Or, we may be tempted to excuse them and ourselves from God’s attention… to persuade ourselves that God would never apply His justice to those He loves.

     When we give into those temptations… when we give into those selfish desires… we deceive ourselves with empty words.  According to God in Malachi 2:17, we weary Him…  ‘
You have wearied the LORD with your words; yet you say, “In what way have we wearied Him?”  In that you say, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and He delights in them,” Or, “Where is the God of justice?’ (NKJV).
     If we give into those temptations, Jesus promises in Matt. 7:21-23 we will be disappointed.  “
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (NASB)
     Paul encourages us to give up empty false consolations.  “
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”  “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17 – NASB).

     What should be our position when discussing topics like sin, judgement, condemnation, and salvation with people?
     •  Since God uses His written word to teach and call people to do right, we also should use His Scriptures to teach and call people to do right.
     •  Since God uses His written word to warn people about what they are doing wrong and to encourage them to repent, we also should use it to warn and encourage people.
     •  Since God holds people accountable to repent, we also should hold them accountable to repent.
     •  When people tell us they’ve repented from a sin (Luke 17:1-4; 1 John 1:5-10) and they demonstrate their repentance by ceasing the sin (Matt. 3:8-10; Luke 3:8-9; Luke 13:5-9; Acts 26:20)… then we treat them as forgiven of that same sin, consider them as righteous, and encourage them as our spiritual family by helping them deal with the consequences leftover from their sin (Matthew. 18:21-35; Mark 11:25-26).  Just as God Himself would do for them.

     To those who will let us, we encourage them to learn to please God.  We teach from the Scriptures about the overall sin problem people have and about God’s offer of a solution.  Using the Bible we teach people to respect marriage, to be responsible, and to be ambitious towards God.  Using the written words of Jesus and the apostles we teach people that God’s salvation is found only in Christ and we teach them how to enter Christ.  The more we convince, rebuke, and exhort people about what God instructs as doing right, the more those people grow aware of God’s expectations.  Eventually they each make a choice… either (1) recognize their own part in the world’s sin problem and seek to change, or else (2) continue in condemnation following their selfish desires.
     Regardless of whatever sins they bring to our attention, we patiently speak the truth in love.  We encourage and teach them from the Bible how to repent.  If lying, then quit and instead be more truthful.  If drunkenness, then quit and instead live more soberly.  If theft, then quit and instead fulfill needs more honestly.  If fornication, then quit and instead honor God’s law of marriage.  If adultery, then quit and instead restore integrity to the mutual covenant of God’s marriage.
     We gently do as the apostle Paul instructs in Galatians 6:1-3, “
Brothers and sisters, someone in your group might do something wrong.  You who are following the Spirit should go to the one who is sinning.  Help make that person right again, and do it in a gentle way.  But be careful, because you might be tempted to sin too.  Help each other with your troubles.  When you do this, you are obeying the law of Christ.” (ERV)
     And then, we example faithfully as the apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:31-32, “
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (NASB)

     We don’t go around asking people “hey, what sins do you want me to know about today?”  But if we’re aware of someone’s particular sin and they’re willing to let us encourage them… well, then we encourage them to repent from that sin.
     That’s not being judgmental or unforgiving.  That’s being lovable to the unlovable.


      Prepared by David G. Churchill; used by permission. rev.170409
      Unless otherwise noted or where noted “NKJV”, “Scripture taken from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION.  Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.”
      This article's presentation in Exploring God's Word ©2017 David G. Churchill.
      For additional quality Bible-study materials, contact your local church of Christ or access Exploring God's Word at www.exploringgodsword.co.
      Send us your Bible-related questions.